When you are newly diagnosed with Celiac Disease or gluten sensitivity, it can be extremely overwhelming. There is not doubt that it changes your life, and it takes time to get used to your new normal. My best advice to anyone that has just gotten a diagnosis is to be patient and give yourself some grace, this is going to be a long process, but it will be so worth it when you restore your health and are feeling like yourself again. Here are my best tips for a newly diagnosed celiac…
TAKE A DEEP BREATH
Getting a diagnosis like this can cause feelings of overwhelm and relief all at the same time. You are relieved that you finally know what has been making you feel unwell, but the thought of changing your entire lifestyle is a lot for anyone to take in. So just take a deep breath, and tackle it one step at a time.
BE YOUR OWN ADVOCATE
In the same way that you probably had to be your own advocate to get the diagnosis, you will have to do the same thing going forward. You are going to have to speak up for yourself to protect your health. It is hard at first, but you will learn to be upfront about your dietary restrictions when you’re out at restaurants and eating at other people’s houses. You need to let waiters know that you are celiac before you even order, be direct, and ask questions. This mostly goes for the issue of cross contamination. Most people don’t know that you can get sick from a crumb of regular bread, and that certain cooktops can’t be used to cook your food. The same thing goes for when you are eating at other people’s houses. You need to ask questions and tell them upfront about your restrictions, and even make it easier on yourself and bring a dish. That way you know you will be able to safely eat something.
READ BOOKS ABOUT CELIAC DISEASE
Reading books about celiac disease will be incredibly helpful for you to be able to learn about what is happening in your body, and the real science behind this autoimmune disease. They will not only help you understand how to heal yourself, but these books will provide a wealth of knowledge about how to live day to day with celiac. This post from Beyond Celiac is a great resource with a list of books and magazines that can help.
PURGE YOUR PANTRY AND FRIDGE
One of the first things you need to physically do in your house is purge your pantry and fridge. Pull every single thing out, put in on the countertop, and look at the labels of every product. The books that you will have read will help you to know what ingredients are now off limits. Really pay attention to every ingredient on any kind of boxed or processed product. Anything that has gluten or a derivative needs to go into a pile. Your life will be much easier once all of the things that you can’t eat are not in your house anymore. You won’t have to worry about cross contamination, or even temptation. You don’t need to throw it away, you can donate the food to a friend, family member, or even a food shelter if it hasn’t been opened yet.
MAKE A LIST OF NATURALLY GLUTEN-FREE FOODS
Now that your pantry and fridge are clear of foods that can make you sick, it is time to think about the foods that you CAN eat. Sit down and make a list of all of the foods that are naturally gluten-free. Literally think of every single food that you possibly can, you will be surprised how many you will be able to list. Just by seeing a visual list will make you realize how many foods that you can still keep in your diet. Most whole foods, except for certain grains, are gluten-free. Do your best to not think about the foods that you are now having to cut out of your diet, and try to focus on the ones that you can have. This mindset will help you not feel so deprived.
EXPERIMENT WITH GLUTEN-FREE SUBSTITUTES
There are tons of really amazing gluten-free products on the market these days. This was not always the case just a handful of years ago. I have taste tested my fair share of terrible gluten-free breads and crackers over the years. Start seeking out gluten-free substitutes for your favorite breads, pastas, crackers, and other types of snacks. And when it comes to baking, there are also lots of great gluten-free flours too. My favorite brand for GF flours is Bob’s Red Mill, they have great all-purpose blends that I have used in my baked goods. But don’t think you always have to go for flour blends, almond and coconut flour are two flours that I use often in muffins, pancakes, cookies, and donuts. My favorite gluten-free breads are Canyon Bakehouse and Little Northern Bakehouse.
ADAPT YOUR FAVORITE RECIPES
There are about a zillion gluten-free recipes on the internet right now, all you have to do is search for ‘gluten-free brownies’ in Google, and boom. Hundreds of brownie recipes. You can adapt pretty much any recipe to make it gluten-free. Do some browsing through my recipe index and you will quickly find LOTS of recipes that you thought you were going to miss after having to change your diet. But fear not, it can be done.
USE BLOGS AS A RESOURCE FOR RECIPES & TIPS
When I was first diagnosed, I started reading the books, but I also turned to gluten-free food blogs for help. I didn’t know much about gluten-free cooking at the time, so I followed their recipes. It helped tremendously to be able to learn about certain flours and ingredients, and how to cook with them. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a food blogger (oh hey!) with questions on their recipes, or just with any questions that you may have. I am always here to help!
IT’S OKAY TO MISS YOUR OLD LIFESTYLE
Having to change your entire lifestyle overnight is incredibly overwhelming for anyone. It takes time and patience to learn all of the ins and outs of living with celiac disease. And with that comes a little bit of mourning your old life pre-celiac. It is okay to miss your old lifestyle, the one where you never had to worry about what you were eating. The one where you didn’t have to ask 20 questions every time you go out to eat. It is OKAY to be a little bit sad about losing that. But I promise it gets easier with time. You get used to it, you have more patience for it, and I promise you will feel SO much better. Your health will be thriving, and you can use it as a testimony to now go on and help others in the future.
YOU CAN DO IT.
*Disclaimer: this post is not meant to be medical advice. It is just a resource to help you better understand how to dine out safely with celiac disease. Always talk to your doctor about any personal medical concerns you may have.